What obligations does an employer have to pregnant employees during the coronavirus crisis?

Where an employee is pregnant, the NHS guidance is that they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) and it is therefore important for them to follow the advice to stop the spread of coronavirus. The employer should consult the employee about the options and should consider if it is appropriate for them to work from home.

Employers should consider their duties under health and safety legislation. The employer should carry out a risk assessment, taking into account the extent to which it is possible for the employee to reduce the risk of infection, for example by avoiding the use of public transport at peak times and maintaining social distancing wherever possible. Where a risk is identified, the employer must take steps to control, reduce or remove it, by:

  • temporarily altering the employee's working conditions or hours of work; or (if that is not reasonable)
  • offering them suitable alternative work; or (if none is available)
  • suspending them from work on full pay for as long as necessary to avoid the risk.

An employee's maternity leave will be triggered if they are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason, including a suspension on health and safety grounds, in the four-week period before their expected week of childbirth.